Things get stranger ... When I was an undergraduate, it was sort of accepted usage that "fascist" referred to a political system in which business interests were given freedom to produce and compete within the national interest guidelines established by the government, but individual liberties were strictly circumscribed. Hitler's Germany, Franco's Spain, and Mussolini's Italy come readily to mind as examples.
The same course syllabus would have continued to describe "communism" as a system characterized by "collective ownership of property and the organization of labor for the common advantage of all members." It would have gone on to graphically describe a political continuum with fascism on the extreme right, and communism on the far left. The enmity between the Nazis and Stalin's Communists would be cited as illustrative of the principle.
Now we have "Red" China, officially communist since 1949, but tired of starving, they give their people freedom to compete economically, and to own property - while retaining oppressive political control. Does that make the PRC now fascist?
But, wait! It gets better.
Since 1823, the Monroe Doctrine has been the unofficial benchmark of American foreign policy. For the uninitiated, the MD essentially declared the U.S. to be the Top Dawg of the Western Hemisphere.
The true Top Dawg of world politics, the British, smirked and pretended to go along, primarily to help keep French ambitions in check. Actually, the Crown's agents continued to seize customs houses of New World "sovereign" nations who fell into arrears with their creditors, and the U.S. looked the other way. By the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, however, the world knew we were serious, and had the heat to back up our claims. In the meantime, the U.S. had extended its hegemony across the continent, riding rough shod over Indians, Confederates, and Mexicans alike in the process.
If politics had any consistent principles (beyond enriching those in power, and seeking to perpetuate the tenure of the same), logic would indicate that the U.S. support China's claim to be the 800-pound gorilla of Asian politics, and stand idly by while Beijing tidied up its domestic affairs in regard to Taiwan and Tibet. After all, China didn't weigh in while Washington crushed Richmond or cornered the Mescalero.
My neighbor, a retired USAF officer, described American foreign policy as "protecting our place at the trough." This is most apt and memorable turn of phrase that I've encountered. Why don't we use it for a recruiting slogan? "Join the Navy, and defend our place at the trough!"
Well, I guess not. There is such a thing as too much transparency.
During World War II, we were challenged to "Defend Our American Way of Life". Brilliant! "American Way of Life!" What is that? Any darned thing you want it to be!
Both Union and Confederate troops thrilled to the lyrics of "Battle Cry of Freedom!" What "freedom"? To navigate the Mississippi and sell produce overseas unmolested? To make one's own laws, and choke off commerce on the Mississippi? To be free from the competition of slave labor? To retain the slave labor purchased in full faith of contract? What is "freedom"?
Recently, we have been involved in foreign conflict - the issues of which are confusing to the average Bud Light consumer. We are shedding blood to... what? Avenge 9-11? No, that would be atavistic, and beneath us as a People. To destroy "weapons of mass destruction"? No comment necessary. Then why?
Seems that the reason de jour has to do with bringing the benefits of democracy to those who didn't know they needed it. Hmm. Democracy ...
The Greeks coined the term. Seemed to work well for Athens ... at least for the citizens. The slaves, the women, those who had no property? Well, they didn't leave a written record of their thoughts. Only the Swiss cantons seem to have made democracy work ... and how many of us have the luxury of defensible mountain ramparts and homogenous intelligent and industrious populations?
Is "democracy" a viable concept for the world at large?
Well, I guess it depends on what the meaning of "democracy" is.
Oh well, it matters little now. Due to our "democratic" refusal to discipline ourselves, the Chinese will soon be able to formulate their version of the Monroe Doctrine for Asia.
Sonny Scott is a Chickasaw County resident and a community columnist. Contact him at email@example.com.